MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) - The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Monday, August 4 ordered the suspension of opposition senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr from public office.
In a 3-page resolution, the court's 1st division ordered Revilla and his co-accused in graft and plunder charges, Richard Cambe, suspended from public office for a period of 90 days. The count will start from the day the order is received by the Senate.
Cambe is a Director III in Revilla's office. In papers whose authenticity is still assailed by the Revilla camp, Cambe is listed as his chief of staff. His lawyer Mike Ancheta said he merely heads the legislative staff of Revilla. (READ: Did Senator Bong Revilla lie?)
The two are accused of pocketing P224 million (about $5M) in Revilla's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). They allegedly knowingly allowed and financially gained from letting ghost projects of dubious non-governmental organizations be listed on paper as legitimate recipients of PDAF.
The Sandiganbayan 1st division considered "the mandatory tenor" of the plunder law. Section 5 of Republic Act 7080 or the country's plunder law states: "Any public officer against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this Act in whatever stage of execution and mode of participation, is pending in court, shall be suspended from office." (READ: Plunder in the Philippines)
Revilla's camp earlier asked the anti-graft court not to suspend him pending his petitions before the High Court questioning the validity of the ongoing court proceedings against him.
But the 1st division justices said the charge sheet filed against him by the prosecution takes precedence over the petitions filed with the Supreme Court. "While the accused have pending petitions before the Supreme Court, there is no temporary restraining order (TRO) issued in connection therewith," their resolution said.
Revilla is the chairman of the Lakas-CMD, the former ruling party under the Arroyo governmment. He is also considered the party's standard-bearer in the 2016 presidential elections.
On July 23, another senator facing plunder and graft charges in connection with the pork barrel scam was ordered suspended by the court, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
Previous to this, on July 18, the court suspended Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is also facing plunder and graft charges.
All 3 senators are detained at Camp Crame. Enrile is under hospital arrest in the camp.
The cases against them resulted from the worst corruption scandal to hit the Philippines in recent history. The Supreme Court has already abolished the PDAF and declared it unconstitutional. - Rappler.com
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